How to Not Freak Out in Yoga Teacher Training

It's easy to get overwhelmed.

So many rich and seemingly complex texts to read from ancient masters whose work is (sometimes confusingly) translated from Sanskrit to dozens of contemporary books that each refract the practice of yoga from the prism of that author’s experience.

Then there are the hours and hours of workshops. Anatomy. Teaching from the chakras. Teaching from the muscular structure. Teaching from the energetic structure. Koshas and kriya and kundalini and karma yoga and bhakti yoga and “Oh good grief I’ll never remember all this!”

Go back to what you learned in your very first yoga class. Relax.

There’s only one idea you need to remember to counterpose freakout: remember the big picture. And the big picture is yoga. Yoga means “yoke.” Union. The purpose of practicing yoga is to experience yoga - the already existing fact of your union, your connection to everything, the truth that you are not doing any of this isolated from access to an infinite wellspring of loving, ongoing, creative wisdom.

The purpose of yoga techniques and practices is to offer options to create the conditions under which the experience of yoga can occur.

There are an infinite variety of rich veins of techniques to draw from. They are all different options to guide you to seeing the same essential truth: we are already ‘yoked.’ Some options will be more attractive than others to you. Go for those! That’s what “option” means: it’s an option. You get a choice.

We dabble in all these techniques to discover which resonate with us in order to be an effective bridge for students between their old conditioned responses — their conviction that they are separated from everything else — and their experience of yoga. Your way of ‘being’ the bridge, the benign presence, between their old conditioning and the experience of yoga will necessarily be distinct. Idiosyncratic even. Rare. Necessary.

Erich Schiffmann says, “You are the specific and unique Self-expression of Infinity.”

So it’s cool and good news: you’re Infinity erupting, in a rare, idiosyncratic, distinct way.

Don’t let it be more complicated than that.

The world needs more good yoga teachers. It needs more voices. It needs your voice. The unique way that yoga ‘erupts’ for you and comes through you for your students will resonate with someone else. And together, you and your students lessen the density of the illusion that we are separate. This is the most important gift you will ever give. And the most natural gift you have, even if you don’t see it just yet and even if it feels like it takes tremendous courage to be led by the nose from deepest, truest voice of guidance you know.

In one of his essays on yoga, Gary Lemons wrote: "If you think particle physics is difficult or carrying a rifle into combat scary you should try listening for and living in accordance with your inner guidance. That’s maybe the most difficult and most constructive act a single individual can offer to the collective."

I’ll say it again: your voice is needed.

Don’t let the intricacies of all the specific elements distract you from the joy and the elegant simplicity of this. Everyone is your soul mate. Your future students are your soul mates. And the easiest way for “yoga” to register with them is to have it register with you.

So stoke your own practice, informed by all the 'tips and tricks' that resonate with you from various ancient and contemporary masters and teachers. Let it come through you the way it comes through you. This will ultimately inform and create and morph into your own language as you trust your own instincts more and more. What you teach will be real and true for them because it is arising from the same source that feeds you which is real and true.

Yes, it's more than okay to 'borrow' and liberally use phrases and techniques we've learned from others. You should do that. You will do that.

We don't learn yoga alone and we don’t teach yoga alone. If we did, then yoga wouldn’t mean “union” but it would mean “non union.” And that would be a tedious drag. And it wouldn’t have endured thousands of years. It would have disappeared into the dust heap of silly fads like unpaid internships and oversized shoulder pads in women's business suits.

It's not about one self-contained, independent, separated being teaching another self-contained, independent, separated being how to have a moderately better experience being a self-contained, independent, separated being.

A yoga teacher trainee that leans with trust into staying open to what other teachers offer and then allows that 'learning' to facilitate the experience of their own 'yoking’ will find his or her voice for sharing the truth.

We "yoke" together, not separately. It's really easy to just blast past words like that. Don't. Yoga is a personal practice that is intimately connected to everything in your life and everything in everyone else's life. Weird, yes. True, yes.

So? In yoga teacher training? Go for the experience of yoking. Yoke with yoga masters. Yoke with each other. Yoke with your own mat and your own meditation cushion.

If you find yourself freaking out? Drink in a big breath. Exhale everything.